What strikes you profoundly as you start the book is the unfairness and grief surrounding the untimely death of a loved one, a spouse in this case, after a long battle with cancer. An inter racial marriage made of stuff out of a romance novel, fate has cruel plans for the wonderful couple at the heart of this true story.
The book is about how the author, Tembi copes with this big loss, struggles to accept the reality of living as the young widow of her beloved Italian chef husband Saro, while bearing the responsibility of raising their 7 year old daughter alone, and getting to know her mother in law and Sicilian culture deeper and better as she traverses this tough path.
The story weaves happy memories of Tembi and Saro, interspersed with the grieving years after his passing away, as Tembi tries to understand life, learnings, love and family in the two diverse worlds of Los Angeles and Sicily.
Food is at the heart, with rich descriptions of traditional Italian foods and how they are made from scratch. There are so many observations linking life and food and nature, you are on a journey with the author as she is struggling to make sense of her life and move on.
The book also serves as a lesson on assimilating across cultures, drawing the sharp contrasts of the two families and their beliefs and lives. The tone is a little monotonous, but considering the context one can appreciate it nevertheless. As my friend recommended, ‘keep a box of tissues’ especially as you begin reading the book. Knowing that it is a true story makes you respect Tembi, a fiercely strong, loving, open minded woman,ten times over. The recipes and book club questions at the end of the book are an added bonus!